Gigabyte BRIX Pro SFF Powerhouse

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Gigabyte BRIX Pro SFF Powerhouse

October 6, 2014 by Lawrence Lee

Gigabyte BRIX Pro
Barebones Mini PC
Street Price

Traditionally mini PCs have served as replacements for very basic desktops, a role that makes perfect sense given the limitations of smaller enclosures. In the past these systems were primarily powered by slow Atom CPUs and comparable entry-level AMD APUs as that was the most cost effective technology available at the time. Intel breathed some much needed life in the genre with the NUC line, leveraging the performance and energy efficiency of their recent processors, and utilizing a sleek and quiet design. Gigabyte has followed suit with enthusiasm, offering a selection of similar devices with their BRIX series. The range of SKUs is much wider though, with clearly defined low, midrange, and top tier SKUs. These include versions with Bay Trail Atoms, dual core Core i3/i5's, but also quad core Core i5/i7's with standard desktop clock speeds. They even have a series of gaming boxes with discrete graphics.

Specifications: Gigabyte BRIX Pro GB-BXi7-4770R
(from the product web page)
Dimension 62 x 111.4 x 114.4 mm ( 2.4” x 4.3” x 4.5”)
Motherboard 100 x 105 mm
CPU 4th generation Intel® Core™ i7-4770R 3.90 GHz
Chipset Intel® HM87 Chipset
Memory 2 x SO-DIMM DDR3L slots (DDR3 1.35V)
1333 / 1600 MHz
Max. 16GB
LAN Gigabit LAN (Realtek RTL8111G)
Audio Realtek ALC269
Graphics Intel® Iris™ Pro graphics 5200
Resolution (Max.) HDMI: 4096x2304 @ 24 Hz
Mini DP: 3840x2160 @ 60 Hz
Expansion Slots 1 x mSATA slot
1 x Half-size mini-PCIe slot occupied by the WiFi+BT card
1 x SATA slot
Front I/O 2 x USB 3.0
1 x head phone jack with SPDIF
Rear I/O 1 x HDMI
1 x Mini DisplayPort
2 x USB 3.0
1 x RJ45
1 x DC-In
1 x Kensington lock slot
Storage Supports 2.5” thickness 7.0/9.5mm Hard Drives (1 x 6Gbps SATA3)
Power Supply Input: AC 100-240V
Output: DC 19V
VESA Bracket included
Supports 75 x 75 and 100 x 100 mm
Support OS WIN7 32/64bit
WIN8 32/64bit
WIN8.1 32/64bit
Environment System Environment Operating Temperature: 0°C to +35°C
System Storage Temperature: -20°C to +60°C
* The entire materials provided herein are for reference only. GIGABYTE reserves the right to modify or revise the content at anytime without prior notice.
* Advertised performance is based on maximum theoretical interface values from respective Chipset vendors or organization who defined the interface specification. Actual performance may vary by system configuration.
* All trademarks and logos are the properties of their respective holders.
* Due to standard PC architecture, a certain amount of memory is reserved for system usage and therefore the actual memory size is less than the stated amount.

Today we're going to examine one of their high-end offerings, the top variant of the BRIX Pro, which emphasizes CPU power above all else. It features a Core i7-4770R, a Haswell quad core processor with a clock speed of 3.2 GHz (up to 3.9 GHz with TurboBoost). The "R" suffix denotes its status as a specialty chip with Intel's highest level of integrated graphics, Iris Pro 5200, which features 128MB of dedicated eDRAM cache. It also has a lower TDP (65W) than the mainstream quad core desktop lineup. This is low considering the clock speeds and architecture, but for reference, the Core i5-4250U in the last NUC we tested is rated for a mere 15W.

On paper, it's easily the fastest SFF PC we've ever seen but cooling will undoubtedly be a considerable challenge. The rest of the machine is very much like a larger NUC with a pair of DDR3 SODIMM slots (1.35V SODIMMs only), 4K-capable HDMI and mini DisplayPort outputs, both mSATA and standard SATA (2.5 inch) storage options, gigabit ethernet, and they've thrown in wireless 802.11n/Bluetooth capability in the form of a mini PCI-E card.

According to the Gigabyte, this model is "ideally suited to CPU-intensive applications like image design and video editing, the superior graphics performance of the BRIX Pro means it’s also great for 3D gaming." The CPU is certainly up to the task for photo and video manipulation but real professionals may not be satisfied with the maximum allowable 16GB of RAM and the current largest notebook hard drive capacity of 2TB. And while Iris Pro 5200 may be the creme de la creme of integrated graphics, for serious gamers, there's no substitute for a proper discrete graphics. After all, if it were truly "great for 3D gaming," there would be no need for their BRIX Gaming line.

The box.

Package contents.

The Gigabyte BRIX Pro.

The BRIX Pro ships with a large power adapter and cable, a VESA mounting bracket, screws, and a driver disc. The enclosure has a boxy shape and a black plastic exterior with a glossy finish and angled lines at the front and right side to give it some much needed character. The power button is located on the top cover and at the front reside a pair of USB 3.0 ports and a combined headphone/S/PDIF connector. It measures 6.2 x 11.1 x 11.4 cm (H x W x D) so the footprint is similar to the NUC series though it's quite a bit taller as the larger NUC versions with 2.5 inch drive support measure just 5.1 cm from top to bottom. The extra height is understandable, allowing for a larger cooling solution for a high-end CPU. And while the NUC has very limited airflow, the BRIX Pro has a large vent occupying at one corner, obviously a necessity for the 65W chip inside. The larger, more open chassis will obviously help but we can't imagine it can operate at peak speed without creating a ton of noise.

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